AT&T eyes Google's Android, 3G iPhone
By Sinead Carew
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - AT&T Inc <T.N> is interested in selling phones based on Android, Google Inc's <GOOG.O> mobile software, the head of AT&T's wireless business said on Wednesday.
Ralph de la Vega also hinted that AT&T, the No. 1 U.S. mobile service, would have a high-speed version of iPhone from Apple Inc <AAPL.O> in the coming months, when asked about plans to sell a third-generation (3G) iPhone.
"You're going to see our integrated devices be 3G in the not too distant future. I mean months," said de la Vega at an AT&T event at the sidelines of CTIA, the annual U.S. wireless showcase. By integrated devices, the executive said he means smart phones with features such as computer-like keyboards.
He also said he was impressed by demonstrations of Google's Android operating system that he saw in February, though he noted that the system required a lot more development work.
"I think it's something we'd want in our portfolio," de la Vega said, without giving a time frame. AT&T was not part of the group of more than 30 companies that threw their support behind Google's mobile development plans in November.
The executive said that demand for high-end and low-end phones was strong despite signs of a worsening U.S. economy was hurting the company.
"We have not seen a major impact. Wireless seems to be a staple. People don't want to let go of their phones," he said.
He said that AT&T would not follow a move by Sprint Nextel Corp <S.N> to offer unlimited data services as well as voice for about $99 a month. AT&T offers unlimited voice calls for $99 a month, but customers have to pay extra for data.
"We never feel we have to match the price leader in the market," he said.
As AT&T has an exclusive agreement to sell iPhone in the U.S. market for more than two years, others operators have been selling iPhone-inspired phones from rivals such as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd <005930.KS> and LG Electronics Inc <066570.KS> in recent months, but de la Vega said they did not come close.
"You can look like an iPhone, but you're probably not going to be like an iPhone," he said on the sidelines of the AT&T event. "There's a lot of catching up to do."
AT&T also showed off Surface touch-screen table-top display technology from Microsoft Corp <MSFT.O> that it will use in its stores to help customers choose their devices more easily.